Posted: October 11, 2013
Early Access Review
You and your trusted companion set out to visit an old friend of your family's, but during your stay trouble stirs in your homesteads. You return to your lands only to find your former vassals at war with each other, bandits ravaging the lands and strange pagan cults arising.
Legends of Eisenwald promises a fresh new look at old-school RPG and turn based strategy glory, long forgotten in today's big releases. You are to assemble a team of capable warriors, healers and priests, manage their equipment and upgrades and lead them to victory against the many foes now scattered throughout the lands. You go through various chapters of the main story, all taking place in different areas, most of which pretty darn big. Lots of castles, villages and taverns bid you welcome and offer mercenaries or information, ruins and bandit hideouts offer their ill-gotten gains to whoever is brave enough to demand them back.
For most of the game, you will be controlling your personal army of 12 soldiers (at max.), following the main quest. This alone will allow you to go down different paths, with a little bit of open-world feeling thrown into the mix. When returning to your old vassals, they will ask you to deal with their respective neighbours for them, and it is up to you who to side with. Apart from following the story, a healthy number of sidequests will beg for your attention. Some may offer unique treasure, others might get you a valuable companion. If you played Mount & Blade, the campaign-map will feel very familiar. Each army is represented only by one token character and the time goes by in a flash (adjustable).
If you meet with a hostile army or enter an enemy settlement, battle will commence. Here is where the turn based strategy part advertised by the game comes into play. It is your task to organise your soldiers on a field of hexagons, with melee characters in front and support in the back. Based on every character's initiative-value, they all take turns going at each other. Some units have special abilities, some may buff your troops or curse the enemy.
Combat is done well enough, though hardcore-fans of the days gone by might find it lacking in depth. Apart from different stats and abilities, your equipment plays only a minor role and will not even change the physical appearenace of your soldiers. Upgrading them feels like a somewhat sterile and uninteresting process. Quests are generally very straight-forward and come with exact map-markers, so friends of complex storylines might not get their money's worth here either.
One major problem with the game: It is still in development, as the Early Access tag suggests. I experienced a lot of crashes and graphical glitches that have yet to be fixed.
Eisenwald has an interesting setting. The music is atmospheric and the aesthetics are fitting. Also, work on your pronounciation-skills for German words, as "Eisenwald" is only one of many.
Is Eisenwald worth buying? Maybe not so much at this point, but at the very least it is worth to keep an eye on it. If you want your nostalgia-nerve tickled, this might just be the thing for you.